Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I was thinking yesterday about why I didn't try to kill myself the second night after I arrived in California, when my mother had been so angry with me.

I had formed a plan several days earlier; I had easy access to the pills I was planning on using. It would have been so simple: I'd take a hundred tylenol, and then I'd take a couple of my Saphris, which sedate me quickly.

So why didn't I? A couple of reasons. First, my father pleaded with me that night not to do anything to myself. He extracted a promise from me. That alone wouldn't have been sufficient. Second, a kind of sheer cussedness in me didn't want to die just because my mother was furious with me - "Don't give her the satisfaction." Almost directly contrary to that, but still complimentary, was a desire not to be seen as manipulative by my mother if my suicide attempt should fail - not to be seen as using suicide as a means of getting attention.

But the most important reason? I was too unhappy to kill myself.

Self-murder takes a certain moral clarity, a kind of courage. True, many people kill themselves because they are afraid to remain alive, but it takes courage to live with death for the days, weeks, months, hours leading up to a suicide attempt. When you are suicidal, the thought of suicide becomes a kind of talisman, a comfort, a reassurance that whenever you want to, you can just quit life, leave, abandon everything and everyone. Nobody can force you to live.

Even in hospitals it's possible to kill yourself. People leave windows open sometimes, or else you could hang yourself with your bedsheets, or just bang your head against the wall until you shattered your skull. You could save your plastic utensils, and splinter them into something sharp enough to cut yourself with. When you're suicidal, everything becomes a temptation for self-harm. While I was in the hospital this most recent time, before my meds were changed, I had been cajoled into arts and crafts, which they were calling "occupational therapy" for some reason. As I was sewing up a wallet I'd been given, I kept thinking about stabbing the needle into my eyes. Truly, everything becomes a means of self-harm in the depths of a suicidal depression.

But depression is not the same thing as unhappiness. I found the thought of suicide calming in the days leading up to my move to California. Every time my mind strayed to how much I was losing, how painful it was to be kicked out of school for a second time, to lose my friends and my apartment, I comforted myself with the thought of suicide. I was depressed, but the product of my depression - suicidality - actually made me calmer and happier.

It is very possible to be happy while depressed, and to be sad when your brain is functioning normally. This is what a few hours of happiness while depressed feels like, at least to me: there's a kind of hysterical giddiness to your temporary relief from pain. You know it's only temporary - that when you're alone again, away from the love and laughter of your friends or family, your depression will settle over you like a thick, viscous scum, tainting everything you touch, everything you try to do. At every moment, you feel the depression - like the specter of death - hovering over your shoulder, so close that you almost think you could catch sight of it if you turned around quickly enough. You feel extraordinarily visible, as if everyone can see you, can see that you're a fake, that your happiness isn't real. You laugh too loud, your eyes are a little too wide.

In contrast, I am now normal, and sometimes very sad. I cried two nights ago, silently and spontaneously, out of loneliness for my friends, for the people I left behind in Maryland. But I am alone for much of the day now, and this is no longer an object of terror for me: I go for walks by myself and am not afraid of my thoughts. I had a job interview today, and when I didn't get the job - the hours weren't right - I shrugged my shoulders, said "Oh, well," and enjoyed my day.

I don't know why I've been given this reprieve. I had fully expected the depression I felt this fall to last for months and months. It began lifting the day my meds were changed - and the day my mother reassured me that she loves me. Which was more important? I don't know. But as I said last time, each day now feels very precious to me, and I savor the sun on my shoulders as being especially sweet.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you're feeling better. You're going to be okay. I would suggest keeping yourself busy--getting a job--something interesting but not too stressful, getting involved in a club or civic group, doing volunteer work, joining a support group, maybe taking a college class, and focusing on exercising, eating right, and taking care of yourself. I have heard that the climate in California is great for relieving depression. You are so young. You have so much time to accomplish your goals. Take it easy!